Posted October 27, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen
There are many Acadias.
Acadia the beautiful…
Acadia the historic…
Acadia the maritime paradise…
and, Acadia the tourist haven.
Those who call it a “tourist trap” have probably only paid it a weekend visit or less.
I mean, this park has over 3.5 million visitors a year. Figure the math and stay away from Bar Harbor and the bus routes on weekends. Even with the cruise ship traffic, we never felt the crowd crush we’ve heard others complain about.
From Boothbay to Acadia is about a hundred-and-twenty mile drive. We left early and stopped for breakfast in Waldoboro.
What an honor it was to be served by Pam on the morning of her retirement day after forty years of service at Moody’s Diner. Locals were lined up outside the door to sit in her section. Lucky us to be part of the celebration!
As we continued on US Hwy 1, we gradually began to notice a change in the landscape. The usual oaks and maples, were replaced by thin pine and spruce clinging for dear life to crumbling granite bluffs. What’s this? I had expected to see a rich boreal forest.
They don’t call it Mount Desert Island for nothing.
My imagination was probably informed by the painters of the Hudson River School in the 1850’s who were known to make up for the tree deficit by inserting non-indigenous stately specimens wherever it suited the composition.
This 47,000 acre National Park is several educations in itself. It would be silly to declare that we “experienced” Acadia. That alone would take at least a year.
But in twelve short days we picked up a few basic tips:
One. Upload the trail maps before you go so you don’t have buy the paper park map. I was scolded by a ranger at the visitor’s center for photographing the map and had to delete the image. We’d pay for a digital map if they had one. Geez. What happened to Save A Tree?
Two. Keep the map with you at all times to avoid the bus routes on the weekend.
Three. The best things about Acadia are not on the paper map.
All the five-buck maps in the visitors center could never get our heads wrapped around Acadia National Park.
It’s a big place with a big story beginning with the continental glaciers that formed this paradise a few million years ago. The Wabanaki, The People of The Dawnland, dwelt there for twelve-thousand years before the Acadians arrived in the 1600’s.
War-weary Europeans, just looking for a little peace, cultivated this french-bohemian enclave, so of course it attracted artists – really, really good ones – from the Hudson River School. These painters of landscapes introduced Mount Desert Island to their patrons and clients.
Before long, the upper-classes had carved out a comfortable retreat where their families could escape the anxieties of wealth. Eventually – out of both altruism and the management of conservation through the public trust they passed it on to …
Desert Island, more than anyplace we’ve been, summoned us to just relax and be at peace.
Everywhere, we observed people under the island’s spell, grounded in a special place, eyes fixed, lost in thought.
Stillness is a travel skill we have yet to master and Acadia National Park is the perfect place to hone the art of dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing).
Anyone at any level of fitness can navigate through this park and find a perfect spot to call their own … just, please, please don’t fall off of it.
But this LIB coddiwomple isn’t about relaxing. When, on occasion, we attempt to exercise our capacity for leisure, the ol’ working-class DNA hits the wall in under twenty minutes.
We envy those who can sit sphinx-like in a sand chair staring out into the blue for hours.
Is relaxing a gift, a skill or an art form?
We dunno. It’s simply not in our wheelhouse to recline with a book in a hammock, nibble an apple and listen to opera. In three and half years of camping we still don’t own a hammock.
But… yeah, we are starting to catch on to this coastal Maine lay-back life. Sure. Let’s do it!
Breakfast at an outdoor cafe …
…then, a mid-morning Carriage Trail ride to …
Jordan Pond House for an afternoon nosh of popovers and delicious cold beverages …
And, oh, the pond days …
and the beach days …
kayaking days …
and the sunsets from Cadillac Mountain.
Blueberry muffins and chowder at Jordan’s
Saison and chowder at The Barnacle
Lobster and clams at Thurston’s Lobster Pound …
Fresh seafood suppers at home …
And just puttering around in the woods, paying attention.
Thanks to the founders who rescued this place from the exploitation of probably most of their friends, Acadia’s simple pleasures are for all, if you can get in.
It’s tough to score digs, but thanks to the National park Service you don’t have to be a millionaire to do it.
The sites were large but way too shady to charge our batteries with solar, so we had to depend on the generator. That was a bummer because we missed out on a lot of hiking and Bar Harbor while hanging out in the campsite during generator hours.
Next time we might try to reserve at one of the private campgrounds in Acadia.
But the silver lining was getting acquainted with both sides of the park.
Blackwoods is close to the action and nightlife of Bar Harbor, and Seawall – twenty-three miles southwest – is in the no-nonsense chill zone.
Bar Harbor has a long history of hospitality and boasts a resort atmosphere. Even the locals are excellent concierges – never too busy to help and happy to share valuable information.
The town even has a free chauffeur service. Regular bus routes stop at all of the major sites and trailheads. Even the hour+ drive from Bangor airport to Bar Harbor is virtually free during peak season on The Island Explorer.
Acadia belongs in my “someday” file.
It’s a supportive place to recreate when we might need more help … someday. Jim says I worry too much, but I think visualizing our future is empowering.
Of course, anything could happen but if, someday, we are so blessed to live so long that we have to hang up the hiking poles and throw the five-buck paper trail map in the recycle bin because our knees have called it quits … then we shall take passage to Acadia and assign ourselves to freshly painted Adirondack chairs placed side-by-side on a shaded deck overlooking the harbor.
There, we shall spend our days observing sailboats as they tack this way and that on the soft breezy afternoon tide, and from time-to-time we shall sigh,
“Ah, Acadia, Acadia, Acadia …“
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.